There is no need to issue public debt

At the London event last week, I indicated that governments should not issue any public debt as the benefits of doing so are small relative to the large opportunity costs. The Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) position is that there is no particular necessity to match public deficits with debt-issuance for a currency-issuing government and deficits should be accompanied by monetary operations which we now call Overt Monetary Financing (OMF). Surprisingly there was some arguments by audience members that governments should continue to issue debt, largely, as I understand them, to provide a safe haven for workers to save for the future. So the idea is that we maintain the elaborate machinery that is associated with the public debt issuance just to provide a risk free asset that workers can use to park their hard-earned savings in. It is a strange argument given the massive opportunity costs associated with debt issuance. A far simpler solution is to exploit the currency-issuing capacity of the government to guarantee a publicly-owned National Saving Fund. No debt would be required.
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    Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

    Australia national accounts – heading for recession at this rate

    When the March-quarter 2015 National Accounts came out three months ago I wrote that “the fragility of growth increases”, as the economy descended into a state of weak growth well below the accepted trend rate. The latest data – June-quarter 2015 National Accounts data – released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today suggests that that fragility has worsened as net exports contracted sharply. Only household consumption and government spending (both consumption and investment) kept the Australian ecoomy growing, albeit at an aneamic rate of 0.2 per cent for the quarter and 2 per cent for the year to June 2015. But the trend is towards near zero growth and the ABS wrote that “Nominal GDP growth was 1.8% for the 2014-15 financial year”, which was “the weakest growth in nominal GDP since 1961-62.” The other notable result was that ‘income recession’ that Australia entered in the last quarter has consolidated wth the total market value of goods and services (GDP) outpacing the flow that Australian residents enjoy as income. Real net national disposable income fell by a further 0.9 per cent over the quarter and 1.1 per cent over the last year. While private consumption growth remained positive, the savings ratio continues to fall indicating indebtedness in on the increase as wages growth remains weak. The other notable result is that despite the call for austerity by the Federal government, gross fixed capital formation (investment) rose by only 0.4 per cen, driven entirely by public sector investment spending. Without the contribution of public spending overall, the Australian economy would have been in negative growth territory. Today’s data paints a very negative outlook for the Australian economy for the remainder of this year and into 2016. With real GDP growth well below that needed to reduce unemployment and underemployment, the government needs to stimulate the economy to boost income and employment growth. This would also allow wages to grow and take the squeeze off households.
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      Posted in National Accounts | 8 Comments

      Multimedia Tuesday – London event and interview

      I am heading south today to the periphery of the Eurozone and will spend the rest of the week down in the sun. We will see what I come up with. My next blog will come from the South – in deep austerity land! Today, though, I have little time. So I have posted the Presentation I gave in London last Thursday plus a Radio interview I did in London on Friday. They might be of interest to those who could not make it to the event on Thursday. We launched my latest book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – in Maastricht yesterday and a video record of the proceedings will be available in due course. But for now it is off to the beach!

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        Posted in Economics, Eurozone, UK Economy | 23 Comments

        Monetary liquidity operations and fiscal policy interventions

        Today, is the official launch of my new book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – in Maastricht, which is an appropriate geographic location given the book proposes to dismantle the Eurozone. It just happens to be the place (Maastricht University), where we established CofFEE-Europe (a sister centre to my research centre in Australia). There are two excellent guest speakers (see below) and I am very grateful that they agreed to accept the invitations. The upshot is that I haven’t all that much time today. Over the next few days I will address some points that were raised in question time or at the reception (aka cup of tea and cakes) after the event in London last Thursday evening. There is still work to be done if the progressive side of politics is to fully understand Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and the implications of it for policy development and choice.
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          Posted in Economics | 29 Comments

          Saturday Quiz – August 29, 2015 – answers and discussion

          Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you understand the reasoning behind the answers. If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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            Posted in Saturday quiz | 1 Comment

            Saturday Quiz – August 29, 2015

            Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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              Posted in Saturday quiz | 1 Comment

              Friday lay day – the neo-liberal Groupthink conspiracy continues in Australia

              Its my Friday lay day blog and today it comes from a dark London (given the hour). At present, there is an event going on in Australia that sums up what is wrong with our conception of the economy. The right-wing News Limited press and the conservative Fairfax financial newspaper along with a management consulting firm that has had its snout in the privatisation trough around the world (and given my location – was one of the ‘approved suppliers’ of support services as the British government moves to privatise the National Health Service) have organised what they call the ‘National Reform Summit 2015’. It brings together big business, the co-opted trade union movement and welfare agencies, academics who propagate neo-liberal fiscal myths, and government officials who are intent on pushing more deregulation and reduced government involvement in the economy. It beggars belief that this stuff can pass muster. But it is no surprise, given that the right-wing media is organising the show and can make money by pumping out ridiculous headlines that it knows will scare but the content will not be understood by the average reader. So as the neo-liberal Groupthink is not challenged publicly at the Summit, the organisers have carefully screened the invited participants to sing from the same hymn sheet. The cartoon that follows says it all really.
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                Posted in Economics, Friday | 17 Comments

                US Federal Reserve should not increase interest rates

                Greetings from London in the early morning! If we went back a few years and dug out all the predictions and scare campaigns that were being issued by mainstream economists and their conservative ‘think tank’ conduits about the impending disaster that would accompany the near zero interest rate regimes that the US Federal Reserve Bank had implemented it would make a great comedy sketch. There should be no surprise with the massive predictive failures of the mainstream economists in this regard. They clearly did not understand the underlying dynamics that govern the way the central bank interacts with the commercial banks. The problem is that these conservative forces are so dumb they don’t have adaptive learning mechanisms and so even in the fact of evidence contrary to their Groupthink they keep pumping out the same nonsense. The other problem is that they tend to be well funded by the right-wing establishment that they exhibit disproportionate influence on the public policy debate. That influence has turned to demands that the US Federal Reserve Bank (the central bank) increase interest rates and reverse its quantitative easing – apparently because hyperinflation is just around the corner. Nothing could be further from the truth. At present the US economy is some way into a very slow and relatively tepid recovery. But it has still some way to go and while interest rate changes have a relatively weak impact on overall growth any anti-growth noise is undesirable. It is also not justifiable given the central bank’s own logic.

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                  Posted in Central banking, Economics, US economy | 17 Comments

                  Travelling – back to typing Thursday

                  There will be no detailed blog today as I am in the midst of inter-contintental travel, which is one of those terms from the C19th that sounds exotic but is in reality pretty awful. Somewhere in the next 24 hours I will surface and start typing again. A new blog will appear Thursday sometime. But while I am gone you can listen to some music, if you like.
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                    Posted in Admin | 2 Comments

                    The roots of MMT do not lie in Keynes

                    I am currently working on an introductory chapter to a collection I have prepared for my publisher (Edward Elgar) which describes the evolution of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). The task might appear to be straightforward but in fact is rather vexed. There is considerable dispute as to where the roots lie. A specific debate is the importance of the work of John Maynard Keynes. Many Post Keynesians, almost by definition, believe that Keynes was a central figure in the development of what we now call Post Keynesian economics, although that ‘school of thought’ evades precise identification and is certainly anything but homogenous. There are MMT proponents, who while sympathetic with much of Post Keynesian theory, disagree on key propositions – specifically relating to debt and deficits (as an example). But then they also point to Keynes’ work as seminal in the development of MMT. My own view is that many of the important insights in Keynes were already sketched out in some detail in Marx. Further, the work of the Polish economist Michał Kalecki was much deeper in insight than the work of his contemporary, Keynes. But for me the real sticking point against Keynes was his view that fiscal deficits should be balanced over the business cycle and that would allow governments to pay back debt incurred in the deficit years. That view has crippled progressive thought ever since and is antithetical to MMT. The debate also has resonance with the current leadership struggle within the British Labour Party about fiscal deficits and the claims by the ‘socialist’ candidate, Jeremy Corbyn that he will “balance the budget” when unemployment is low so as to avoid inflation. This view derives from the adoption by progressives of Keynes’ views, whether they know that or not. It is a mistaken view and retards progressive policy development.
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                      Posted in Economics | 32 Comments